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Yugoslavia: Council of Europe Should Make Stronger Demands

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  • Leslie Smith by way of Greek Helsinki M
    For Immediate Release: Yugoslavia: Council of Europe Should Make Stronger Demands (New York, August 31, 2002) — The Council of Europe should seek stronger
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 30 11:38 PM
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      For Immediate Release:

      Yugoslavia: Council of Europe Should Make Stronger Demands

      (New York, August 31, 2002) — The Council of Europe should seek stronger
      commitments on police abuse, war crimes accountability and Roma rights
      in connection with admission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FR
      Yugoslavia), Human Rights Watch said today.

      This week the Belgrade authorities accepted a list of accession demands
      from the Council of Europe, but Human Rights Watch said the list omits
      important commitments in areas where Yugoslavia’s record remains poor.

      Human Rights Watch detailed its concerns in a memorandum distributed to
      members of the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly scheduled to meet over
      the course of the next week, to discuss Yugoslavia’s application for
      admission, in advance of an expected vote on the application by the full
      Assembly at the end of September.

      “The moment just before accession to the Council of Europe is critical
      for setting countries on a clear course on human rights,” said Elizabeth
      Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central
      Asia Division. “The Council will miss an important opportunity to
      promote reform in Yugoslavia if it leaves these gaps in its accession
      demands.”

      The current list of Yugoslav post-accession commitments includes
      continued cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the
      former Yugoslavia (ICTY), but remains silent on the issue of domestic
      trials of war criminals not sought by the ICTY.

      To date, only two war crimes trials have been held in FR Yugoslavia,
      although hundreds of perpetrators of war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and
      Herzegovina, and Kosovo live in the country. The ICTY has indicated
      that it will focus its resources on trying the highest-ranking military
      and political figures, while the rest should be tried before national
      courts.

      “There is a clear need for the Yugoslav authorities to commit to
      accountability for war crimes and to build the independent legal
      institutions capable of carrying out that goal in keeping with European
      fair trial standards,” said Andersen. “The Council of Europe should
      explicitly get behind that goal as well.”

      Human Rights Watch said the list of Yugoslavia’s commitments to the
      Council of Europe is also incomplete when it comes to improving the
      performance of the police. While the list includes reference to
      important structural reforms of the police forces, it fails to call for

      · investigation and punishment of law enforcement officials who abuse
      their powers;
      · amendment to the criminal code to specifically define torture as a
      criminal offense, as requested by the United Nations Committee Against
      Torture back in 1998; and
      · vetting procedure for all members of law enforcement structures to
      dismiss and, where appropriate, bring to justice those found to have
      committed human rights abuses and humanitarian law violations.

      Human Rights Watch also expressed concern that the plight of the Roma
      did not make it into the list as such, despite widespread discrimination
      against Roma in various fields of public life and frequent reports of
      violence they suffer at the hands of law enforcement officials.

      “These are some of the most serious human rights concerns in Yugoslavia
      today,” Andersen said. “They should be explicitly addressed in its
      Council of Europe accession documents, and should be at the top of the
      Council’s agenda for monitoring and technical support in Yugoslavia
      going forward.”

      To read Human Rights Watch's memorandum, please see:
      http://hrw.org/press/2002/08/yugo0802.htm

      For more information, please contact:
      In Belgrade, Bogdan Ivanisevic: +381-63-85-88-715
      In Brussels, Lotte Leicht: +32-2-732-2009
      In New York, Veronika Leila Szente Goldston: +1-917-582-1271
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